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Chips, Chris Barrie and land-speed records

A big day out with Intel

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ISS Chris Barrie fans will no doubt be amused to learn that the press room at this year's Intel Solutions Summit is housed in the Brittas Suite, which in its turn, is located in the Leisure centre. A coincidence altogether too marvelous not to be remarked upon.

ISS is an annual get-together for Intel's favourite and most shiny (profitable) channel partners, where Intel outlines its plans for the next year, and the channel partners get to tell Intel what works, and what doesn't.

Your Vulture Central representative is here to cover the keynote speeches, talk to some of the execs, and find out what is new and exciting in the world of chips and their various routes to market. But before we do that , we get to wander around Intel's Fab. Will we get to wear bunny suits, we wonder...

After registering in the Brittas Empire...sorry Suite...the collection of European press is gathered up and bussed to Intel's Leixlip base. Here we are given a tour of Fab 24 - the only Fab outside the US making 300mm wafers, as we are glowingly told by every single Intel employee we encounter. We begin to suspect that this is either a source of genuine pride or that someone left an open bottle of solvents next to one of the air conditioners.

On the tour we are given a crash course in the life of a silicon wafer. As we learn about he various tortures it is put through, we see some of the vastly expensive machines (around $50m a pop, some of this lithography kit) that do almost inexplicable things to silicon, so that it can do almost inexplicable things inside computers.

"What does one of those go for these days?" asked one of the journalists, indicating a finished 300mm wafer.

"About a million Euro," comes the reply from the less-than-over briefed Intel chap. Our "tour manager" does his best to downplay this remark, reminding us that it does depend on what is on the wafer.

The hacks go into a huddle and immediately plot a smash and grab: "You strip and we'll grab the wafers" says one of the hacks to his colleague. We are foiled by our unwillingness to create this surely terrifying diversion, and troop along to the next window which is covered in dire warnings about a dirty corridor. These Intel types have obviously not been to Soho recently.

Anyway, tour over, we head back to the conference centre. Next on the menu is Lunch, followed by keynote speeches from Anand Chandrasekher and Bill (Desktop) Siu. Sandwiched between the two, there is a surprise motivational speaker: Richard Noble, the man who drove Thrust 2, and was behind the Thrust Super Sonic Car (SSC).

He'd been drafted in to explain that small companies can outwit bigger companies - as with his 15-man team on the Thrust SSC project that beat off the bigger teams to take the land speed record, and to go supersonic. An inspirational message for channel players, especially for those yet to buy their first Boxster.

The excitement of the Thrust 2 land speed record, digging stones out of the Jordanian desert to test the SSC, the eeriness of a car powering towards a camera in absolute silence, followed by the vastly loud sound of the supersonic boom. The thrill of a Brit grabbing a world-first (See, we're almost channeling Mr. Brittas now).

Jolly hockey sticks and ginger beer all round.

It is all too much, and we find ourselves applauding like everyone else at the end of his presentation.

Once we have recovered we over hear one deeply cynical delegate say to another: "Just as well Chandrasekher didn't have to follow that. From the supersonic car to the excitement of multicore processors...That'd be a hard sell."

Quite. ®

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